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Speaker For The Dead by Orson Scott Card

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Speaker For The Dead by Orson Scott Card, is the second book in the Ender series. Like it’s best-selling predecessor Ender’s Game (the first in the series), it won both the Hugo and the Nebula, both of which are highly coveted awards. Compared to it’s predecessor, this book spends more time on the emotional and philosophical than the action-packed. Both have their place, and it is extremely telling that Mr. Card can do both with such skill.

The book begins thousands of years after the original, but Ender is still only 35. He has been jumping from planet to planet speaking for the Dead, essentially telling the hard truth about the dead from an outsider’s perspective; but with the Modus Operandi that all have redeeming characteristics, which can be discovered by finding what they set out to do in life. This time travel has taken it’s toll: he’s been going the speed of light, so he hasn’t been aging at the same speed as everyone else, hence the age difference.

At the start it gets right to the point. He has been working as a professor, but little does anyone suspect that he is Ender The Xenocide. A name which has become an epithet, while the name Speaker For The Dead is highly respected; A continuation of the Speaker’s axiom that all people have both good and bad characteristics. He has been called to speak the death of a man, but little does he know he’ll be engaged in intrigue soon. I will not divulge anything more for fear of ruining all joy from the book but I will leave an interesting fact that may whet the appetite of those who read Ender’s Game: The game, wherein Ender has slain the giant, has now created a character which is actually a close personal friend of Ender.

Bottom Line, it’s an excellent book, but don’t go in with the preconception that this book is exactly the same as Ender’s Game. It is not, and you may not like it if your enjoyment of the book hinges upon it being every bit as action packed.

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About Clay Whittaker

  • Scott Pepper

    I’ve always thought Speaker was a far superior book to Ender. It explores the characters and themes much more in-depth than the prior novel and doesn’t hinge on a “twist” ending. Not that Ender is bad, but it’s inherently limited in that its based on a rather simplistic short story.

    The rest of the novels in the series, including the “parallel” novels that follow Bean and the other cadets, are far inferior to the first two books.

  • Clay Whittaker

    My uncle has told me as much.

  • Jim Carruthers

    I have been turned off of O.S. Card’s books for years because he is such a preachy little creep, and that bleeds through his books.

    That he uses his books to promulgate a paternalistic theological world-view while trying to say he wants to liberate children just makes me gag.

  • Mac Diva

    Count on Jim to be blunt, but get it right-:).

    I’ve read enough of Card to reach the conclusion that I don’t need to read any more of Card. I believe his strengths are theme and plot. His major failing is that he doesn’t write particularly well. His dialogue can be so wooden it is embarrassing. In preference, I think Children of the Mind is better than the ‘masterpieces.’ He seems to have had a writing coach because it actually flows much of the time.

    Does Card’s Mormon world view influence his work? Yes. Sometimes it is very clear. For example, Ender’s sojourn on a Brazilian planet in CM is a lengthy Mormon missionary stint if you give it some thought. The computerized best friend is like the angel Mormons believe watches over them. Women have their ‘place.’ Is that good or bad? Turns on what you think of Card’s values. Jim expressed his opinion. I am also skeptical.

  • Scott Pepper

    Card’s Alvin Maker series exhibits far more of the Mormon influence than any of the Ender novels, as does his five-book Homecoming series, which is essentially a retelling of the Book of Mormon in a sci-fi setting.

    I’d be curious to hear from Jim or Mac how they thought Ender or Speaker were overtly religious. In my view, they’re his two least preachy novels.

    Lastly, I’ve met the man on multiple occasions, and he’s actually quite a nice fellow, not at all a “creep.”

  • Mac Diva

    For heaven’s sakes, Pepper. I did not say that I found the Mormonism overt or that Card is a creep. I hold neither opinion. If I did not know Card is Mormon, I might not have even seen the underlying Mormon themes. I don’t know enough about Card to have an opinion about his personality.

    I know from previous experience you sometimes don’t state your own stake in a topic. It would be interesting to know whether you are a Mormon or former Mormon.

  • Scott Pepper

    Mac, in your previous comment, it seemed you were agreeing with Jim’s assessment of Card as a “preachy little creep.”

    As for me, I’m Jewish, not Mormon, but to each his own.

  • Eric Olsen

    While fiddling with the ad script this morning I seem to have done something to some of the comments – they should reappear for a given post if you add a comment.

  • Mark Saleski

    i thought you said that philip put “eric protection locks” on all of the technical stuff.


  • Phillip Winn

    MD, Jim said, “I have been turned off of O.S. Card’s books for years because he is such a preachy little creep, and that bleeds through his books.” and “That he uses his books to promulgate a paternalistic theological world-view while trying to say he wants to liberate children just makes me gag.”

    You then said, “Count on Jim to be blunt, but get it right-:).” and “Does Card’s Mormon world view influence his work? Yes. Sometimes it is very clear.” and “Jim expressed his opinion. I am also skeptical.”

    If in fact, as you say, you “hold neither opinion,” then surely a clarification and correction would be better than “For heaven’s sakes, Pepper. I did not say…” because you actually did by any reasonable reading of what you wrote.

    It’s okay to say, “Oops, I meant to say XYZ. I’m sorry.” :-)

  • Phillip Winn

    Mark, I took too long to respond to a cellphone call this morning – I was in the shower. :-)

    And actually, I’m starting to believe there is a slightly bigger problem at work with the comments, too.

  • Jim Carruthers

    I don’t really object to Orson Scott Card’s SF books so much in that they are overt about his conflicted agenda, but his homophobic essays and a couple of really sleazy short stories which exploit child abuse while attempting to decry it, just turn me off.

    I’m sure he is a nice man in person, but his SF is really reactionary.

  • Scott Pepper


    I’m not sure which essays and stories you’re referring to–I’m mostly familiar with his novels. If this is the case, it’s certainly a side of OSC I’ve not seen before in his writing. Do you know the names of any of these pieces or where they appeared?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Jim Carruthers

    Well there is this article called “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality“.

    We Latter-day Saints know that we are eternal beings who must gain control of our bodies and direct our lives toward the good of others in order to be worthy of an adult role in the hereafter. So the regulation of sexual drives is designated not just to preserve the community of the Saints but also to improve and educate the individuals within it. The Lord asks no more of its members who are tempted toward homosexuality than it does of its unmarried adolescents, its widows and widowers, its divorced members, and its members who never marry. Furthermore, the Lord even guides the sexual behavior of those who are married, expecting them to use their sexual powers responsibly and in a proportionate role within the marriage.

    So, Spiderman is a Mormon?

    Apparently people who want to exersize their rights under the law will destroy ‘murrica:

    The damage caused to children by divorce and illegitimate birth is obvious and devastating. While apologists for the current system are quick to blame poverty resulting from “deadbeat dads” as the cause, the children themselves know this is ludicrous.

    The short stories, I can’t remember, but they were in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and one in particular was dedicated to the dead of a child which Card later said he fabricated.

  • Jim Carruthers

    crap, I meant to type “death of a child”, but of course spelling checkers don’t flag the wrong tense.

  • Mac Diva

    I guess I should have been more specific. I agree with Jim’s skepticism about the very conservative values underlying Card’s writing. However, I have not studied Card enough to say much about his personality. As you can see above, Jim knows more about some of this than I do.

    I wonder if Card is causing himself a problem by wearing two hats openly — as Mormon leader and pundit and as sci-fi writer. (He apparently regularly writes articles for Mormon publications on and off line.) It, combining religion and sci-fi, worked for L. Ron Hubbard, but does he really want to go there-:).

  • Phillip Winn

    MD, you’re forgiven. Go and sin no more. <grin>

    Incidentally, I don’t think OSC would consider himself a Mormon leader. He is influential in exposing many of us on the outside to Mormon ideas and patterns of thinking, but I believe his influence within the church itself is quite small. At least it was when I looked into it a number of years ago, long after he had become a very successful SF writer.

    On the topic itself, I quite enjoy OSC’s work in some cases (the first series of Ender books, Lost Boys, Alvin Maker, the older stuff), but not in others (the horrid mission to earth series). I do believe that the more he tries to introduce Mormon history into his stories, the more they suffer.

  • Jim Carruthers

    What we all need to do is watch “Battlefield Earth” and then take a long, hot shower.

    For fun, try to see if the book “Barefaced Messiah” is available in your local library or has “disappeared”.

  • Clay Whittaker

    I have noticed this occasionally, but only when it fits the story. In the first Ender book their was a young girl who ender thought should be treated like any other boy, even to the point of advocating her right to strip publicly like all the other boys. This sounds rather more feminist than mormon to me. I believe any moral absolutes in science fiction stick out like a sore thumb. From what I’ve read it seems like most sf writers are either Libertarians or far-leftists, who invariably know their is no God. I believe it’s a bit refreshing to see something a little out of the norm every once in awhile.

  • jc

    You and your pathetic over looks are ridiculous, i completley disagree, and the ending was terrible.

  • Sarah Marmon

    I’m doing a paper on Orson Scott Card, and I have read a lot on him (not so much that I’m an expert, but whatever).
    What I’ve learned so far is that he takes way too much crap for being a Mormon. He lists himself as a moderate Democrat, and the only one of his views I find irrevocably distasteful is his opinion on homosexuality. He is much more progessive than some other very religious people out there today.